Sebastián Lelio’s new feature Gloria Bell means well but falls short in real substance. It is a confusingly dazzling portrait of a woman finding happiness and excitement later in life. (HRM: 2/5)
Review by FF2 Intern Hannah Mayo
Free-spirited “Gloria Bell” (Julianne Moore) is looking to balance her life in LA as a divorcee in her 50s, spending her nights drinking and dancing at clubs, and her days working at an insurance company. She has two kids who barely talk to her, and no friends outside of one good work colleague. When she meets the charming “Arnold” (John Turturro) during a night out, she is thrown into fresh love—a feeling she thought she would never again get to experience.
Feeling a renewed passion for life, she thrives in her new relationship and opens herself up to more more new experiences, including paintball and drugs. But she soon finds that ‘new’ does not easily mix with the ‘old’, and struggles to find a balance between the two while staying true to herself.
Gloria Bell, adapted from the original by writer Alice Johnson Boher, hits all the marks of a good film, but in the end falls short of creating a story with a deeper importance. The story that it tells is at first engaging, but never manages to fill the world of the film, leaving it feeling overall flat. While I believe Sebastián Lelio was well intentioned, and that telling stories of women thriving later in life is important, none of the problems Gloria faces were really big enough to make her triumphs feel meaningful. It felt like “first-world-problems,” and I left the theater asking what the point was.
The cinematography of the film definitely did not help any of this. It was ravishing, colorful and fun, but unnecessarily so. It didn’t really aid the story at all, and only made it feel as though the filmmakers tried and failed to compensate the lack of substance by dazzling the viewer. It feels uninspired, like A24 created a formula of how to make a pretty, indie-looking film and forces it on any story that doesn’t demand any more thought.
Julianne Moore is the only shining light of Gloria Bell. Her performance carries the viewer through all the emotional beats of the film and is substantial enough to make us sympathize with her, but not enough to save the film from a lack of real substance.
As a fan of Sebastián Lelio’s previous film A Fantastic Women, I’m disappointed with Gloria Bell. It ended up being somewhat pointless, and left me feeling nothing but a little confused and frustrated.
© Hannah Mayo (21 March 2019) FF2 Media
Photo Credits: Hilary Bronwyn Gayle
Q: Does Gloria Bell pass the Bechdel-Wallace Test?
Yep! Gloria has many conversations with the women in her life about a range of topics.
Coach Katusha’s Comments:
Gonzalo Maza’s story is adapted by Alice Johnson Boher and Sebastián Lelio into a film about the mundanity of an aging woman’s life. Julianne Moore and John Turturro give great performances in Gloria Bell. In complete agreement with Hannah, my favorite part of the entire film has to be Moore’s soulful embodiment of Gloria.
Lelio accurately represents LA’s first world problems of older women living alone in a young city of dreamers. Throughout the film I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop, but it never did. For me, this is an indication that I wanted a more profound explanation as to why I should watch the piece. With strong performances, but lack of a deeper meaning (as Hannah wrote above), this would only be rewatched on my part for Moore’s exquisite work as an actor. (KIZJ: 3.5/5)